CHARACTER, NOT AUDACITY
NEW YORK TIMES
The Obama speech offered some important if familiar hints of big policy ideas. There was a vague hint of a major tax reform. There was a vague promise to accept an agreement based on the principle of the Simpson-Bowles committee on deficit reduction. But it’s hard to be enthusiastic about President Obama truly championing initiatives that get no more than a sentence or a clause. Over all, the speech had a fierce opposition toward the Republicans and a desire for incremental continuity about what the Democrats themselves would offer. ...President Obama offered other small and worthy ideas, familiar to him since his days in the Senate, that would make America better — more long-lasting batteries, more trade agreements. But these are improvements fit for countries that are already firmly on the right track.
CLEANING UP THE ECONOMY
NEW YORK TIMES
Bill Clinton said of the problems Mr. Obama confronted on taking office, “No one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.” If, by that, he meant the overhang of debt, that’s very much the case. ....Mr. Obama did push through policies — the auto bailout and the Recovery Act — that made the slump a lot less awful than it might have been. And despite Mitt Romney’s attempt to rewrite history on the bailout, the fact is that Republicans bitterly opposed both measures, as well as everything else the president has proposed. So Bill Clinton basically had it right: For all the pain America has suffered on his watch, Mr. Obama can fairly claim to have helped the country get through a very bad patch, from which it is starting to emerge.
PRESIDENT OBAMA'S SECOND CHANCE
NEW YORK TIMES
It was up to Mr. Obama to make the case for another term, with a speech that was every bit as fraught with uncertainty and risk as his 2008 convention address. Just as he did then, Mr. Obama rose to the occasion. He could have sold some of his best lines with more passion, but gone was the maddening coyness of recent years in which he has avoided candidly talking about the mess that President George W. Bush dumped into his lap and shied away from the rumble of politics. ... Mr. Obama explicitly shifted from his 2008 appeal of hope and change to talk of tough choices and tough paths. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” he said. “You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
MR. OBAMA'S HAZY AGENDA
An acceptance speech is not a State of the Union laundry list of specific proposals. Its role is to set out a vision of the country’s future path. Mr. Obama was correct that he and Mr. Romney have dramatically different visions of government’s role, and that the Republican prescription of tax cuts to address any woe has left the country in terrible shape. Mr. Romney has been inexcusably vague in outlining his program, fiscal and otherwise, and he did nothing to mend this deficiency in his acceptance speech. But Mr. Obama’s speech also fell short — of his own proclaimed standards.
TALE OF TWO CONVENTIONS
Coming to Charlotte, I expected to see a party on the defensive. Instead, Democrats orchestrated a convention that felt strikingly focused and spirited. Speakers relentlessly emphasized the “Reelect Obama” side of the equation, relegating “Defeat Romney” to second billing. The oratory was superior, the visuals were more telegenic and there were no Clint Eastwood moments. You can’t conclude that, just because the Democrats’ three-day infomercial was better than what the GOP put on, Obama is going to win. But even if the conventions aren’t remotely as important as they once were, they’re not meaningless. They do say something, and this year the message for Democrats is decidedly hopeful.